No toilets, a sanitation challenge at farmer agitation sites in Delhi
Farmers camping at Delhi’s borders may have stacked ration for months even as they ready themselves potentially for the long haul but they face one problem, toilets.
With no toilets made available for them at the city’s borders, the farmers are compelled to either use empty plots and agricultural fields or are at the mercy of the goodwill of local residents, fuel stations owners and a few businesses that have remained open around them.
While bathing and drinking water has not been a major concern for most of them, using the toilets has been.
“Local residents have offered their home toilets for our use. Some residents gave us their phone numbers in case any of us needed to use the washrooms. But we know their limitations. After all, the regular houses only have 500-litre water tanks and we are thousands,” said Jasjeet Singh, a Faridkot farmer camping at the Tikri Border.
The farmers here did manage to convince a local hospital to let them use the toilets, but that is hardly enough.
“While travelling to Delhi, we could find hotels and restaurants that let us use their facilities, but the options around here are limited,” said Poorn Singh, a farmer from Fazilka in Punjab.
The farmers, however, have found ample support from fuel station owners around the protest site. Neeraj Verma, accountant at the last fuel station in Delhi, on the Tikri route towards Bahadurgarh, said two toilets have been opened up for the farmers.
“We have almost no sale for the last four days, but we have thrown open our toilets for them. But most people are forced to relieve themselves in the fields around,” said Verma.
The situation was slightly better at the Singhu Border where more residents were willing to open their gates for the farmers.
“If I were protesting for my rights, I would have wanted toilets. So, I have been allowing the farmers to use my facility and have been refilling the overhead tank multiple times a day to ensure no one visiting my home is turned away,” said Bharat Sharma, who lives near the Singhu Border.
Farmers some residents even offered to wash their clothes. “We politely refused their offer. This is winter and we can manage with the same set of clothes without troubling them,” said Harjinder Singh, a farmer from Ropar.
Some locals at Singhu Border have even drawn a pipe from their homes to the protest site and have been using their motors to supply water.
Yet, there were many who complained about farmers using the fields and plots to relieve themselves. “They say they plan to continue their protest for weeks and months. The neighbourhood will get unlivable in a few days,” complained a local shopkeeper at Singhu Border.
There is no arrangement by the administration to set up toilets at the protest sites.
A senior police officer, who didn’t want to be identified, said while much of these protest sites are on the Haryana side of the border, there were no plans to set up toilets there. “There are all arrangements at the Burari ground,” the officer said.